Hey, Hillary! Tell More Stories.


By most measures Hillary Clinton had a pretty good night in her first debate with Donald Trump.  But something was missing.

Her disciplined performance may have convinced wavering voters to be somewhat more comfortable with the idea of her as President.  Clinton’s cool, calm demeanor contrasted with Donald Trump’s repeated interruptions and bluster.  She was also successful in getting under his skin.

However, Clinton did little to overcome her two biggest negatives: likeability and trust.  Neither did Trump.  Both are still disliked by surprisingly large numbers of voters. 

In the two debates to come, the breakout candidate could be the one who tells the best stories.

Clinton’s strongest moment on Monday night came right at the end of the 90 minute debate, after many may have turned it off.  She raised the case of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who Trump had called “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping.”

She made it personal. Her remark struck home because it was about a woman who many viewers could relate to.  

Same thing when Clinton talked about her late father and his work as a drapery maker. 

“Donald was very fortunate in his life and that’s all to his benefit. He started his business with $14 million, borrowed from his father,” she said.  “I have a different experience.”

In podcasts, the most successful moments are often the most intimate. When podcast guests share something unrehearsed, unexpected or emotional from their lives, they lift the curtain on they are and establish trust with the listener. 

All too often Clinton talks about “it” – policies and programs – while her opponent talks about “me” – himself.

Donald Trump could also be a much better storyteller. And given his extraordinary success in building his brand, it’s surprising he doesn’t know this.

Instead of talking about the “rigged system” in the abstract, Trump could share stories of the working class Americans he speaks for, who’ve seen their living standards decline in recent decades.

In the weeks to come, a personal touch potentially would have a far greater impact than his angry attacks on illegal immigrants and free trade. It would also counter the impression that Trump lacks empathy and is obsessed with his own success. 

Ronald Reagan understood this trick all too well – much to the frustration of his liberal opponents.  In debates and speeches, he always had a good tale to tell.  Skeptical voters who’d been warned that Reagan was a shallow extremist would ask themselves: “How this man be mean or out of touch when he was such a good storyteller?”

It was of Ronald Reagan’s great secrets. But then he was an old radio guy. He knew the stuff that today’s podcasters learn along the way.

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How Do We Fix It: Time to Stop Sneering At Donald Trump Voters.

imageRetired steel workers union boss Lou Mavrakis is the Democratic Mayor of Monessen, Pennsylvania.  In 2008 he campaigned for Barack Obama.  This year he’s supporting Donald Trump.

“You’re in the heart of where steel and coal was born,” Mavrakis told Martha Raddatz of ABC News. But most of the good jobs have gone and this faded town’s population collapsed from 25,000 at its peak to 7,000 now. Monessen and countless other communities in “rust belt” America are places of pain – plunged into crisis by decades of decline.  Globalization, foreign competition and technology had a devastating impact on working-class Americans.

Asked if Trump could bring back lost jobs, Mayor Mavrakis replied: “I don’t think any one of them could do anything for us, but he’s saying what I want to hear and what everyone else around here wants to hear.”

“I haven’t heard Hillary Clinton say we’re going to bring back steel.”

Mavrakis believes Trump will win more votes in Monessen than any previous Republican Presidential candidate, – telling the Financial Times  voters are rebelling against the establishment just as Brits did during Brexit.

But far too many Democrats – my friends included – shake their heads in amazement about how anyone could be lunatic enough to support him.

“In the land of NeverTrump, it turns out one American is more reviled than Donald Trump. This would be the Donald Trump voter,” writes MainStreet columnist William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal.

The same thing happened during Brexit.  Voters who bucked the metropolitan establishment and decided to opt out of the European Union are sneered at for being anti-immigrant, jingoistic racists.  No doubt, some are.  But people who’ve seen their living standards decline, their dreams fade to gray and their communities fall apart in the past few decades are understandably frustrated by the failure of politicians to address their concerns.

Even if you are disgusted by Trump and believe he’s an unprincipled opportunist, it’s time to look beyond the messenger.

Instead of “contempt for the great Republican unwashed” – as McGurn puts it – a conversation is needed about what many American people are trying to tell us.

 

 

 

 

How Do We Fix It? How Bill Clinton Smashed the Passion Gap 

  

Unscripted comments often give us the worst moments of the Presidential campaign. Look no further than the embarrassing Republican debate in early March, when Donald Trump bragged about his penis.

But once in a while a tense, uncomfortable encounter can turn into a civics lesson.

And so it was when Bill Clinton stood up during an event for his wife in Philadelphia Thursday and faced down protesters from Black Lives Matter. They complained vigorously about anti-crime legislation that the former President signed in the early 90’s: a time when the crack epidemic led to a terrible spike in homicides, especially in African-American neighborhoods.

Instead of merely dismissing the shouts and signs of his detractors, or taking a politically correct vow of silence, he engaged them with a series of remarks about policy and the changed political landscape.

“I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children,” the former President said wagging his finger. “Maybe you thought they were good citizens. She [Hillary Clinton] didn’t. You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter. Tell the truth.”

The tone may have been somewhat hectoring, and he sort-of apologized for it the next day. But the President’s passion was real. You don’t have to agree with him or his record to be impressed by the outburst of substance.

Far too much of this campaign has been about easy slogans, from Bernie Sanders’ simplistic break-up the big banks (thoroughly dissed in a New York Times column by liberal Paul Krugman) to Trump’s build a wall and make Mexico pay.

The biggest problem Hillary Clinton has been her apparent lack of passion. It’s why she has under-performed, and also why Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio failed to catch fire. 

Voters already know that the former Secretary of State, First Lady and Senator from New York has a deeply impressive resume and an intelligent grasp of governance and foreign policy, but much of her campaign has been canned —  on auto pilot. It’s as if she thinks she can glide to victory without taking risks. Without being a fighter.
But today’s media and political environment has changed. Americans – especially millennials – are increasingly bored with complacent, canned remarks. An occasional flash of humor or even anger can be refreshing and even change minds. 

Bill may have put his foot in it sometimes, but his spontaneous outburst in Philadelphia is a lesson for Hillary and a solution for her wobbly campaign. Fix the passion gap.

If you want to convince skeptical voters that you’re not a crook, put away the script and speak from the heart.

Our Gun Control Debate Misses The Target. We Need A New Conversation.

  

I do a podcast called “How Do We Fix It?.”  And it would be good thing if we could get a conversation going about gun crime. One that went somewhere and introduced some new ideas.

But I’m not sure it’s possible.
It’s been a week since the Umpqua Community College massacre in Oregon and America’s debate over guns is still poisoned by anger, fear and incredulity. It is possibly the worst example of how polarized our politics have become.  

One side pretends the Second Ammendment doesn’t exist, while the other insists that levels of gun ownership have nothing to do with America’s very high rate of gun deaths.

Both are wrong.

The ease of buying weapons and our longstanding gun culture lead to large numbers of disputes being settled by firearms. Americans own about 270 million guns, which is more than one for each adult.  About 10,000 people have been killed by guns so far this year and more than 20,000 were injured. 

The toll in the U.S. is far worse than in almost any other industrialized nation.  But ever since white settlers first arrived in the early 1600s, guns have been a fundamental part of the American story.  The frontier was settled with guns.  

Writing in The National Review, Rich Lowry is right to point out that banning semi-automatic assault rifles and closing gun show loopholes would do little to reduce the number of homicides or horrific mass killings. 

Also, you may argue that the U.S. Constitution is a deeply flawed document in this regard, but it very clearly states: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Gun rights opponents often say the bit about “a well regulated militia” confuses the meaning of the second part of the sentence.  But let’s say the Constitution gave completely a different reason.  Doesn’t matter. The right to keep and bear arms still remains.

The only way to implement strict gun control would be to strike down or alter the Second Ammendment. And that’s not going to happen anytime soon. 

Hillary Clinton has called for tighter gun-control, including expanded background checks, but Congress is in no mood to approve them.  If elected she’d also consider executive power to achieve her goals. That may please supporters and help win Democratic primaries, but the growing use of executive orders by Presidents of both parties is damaging to our democracy.  

Support for gun rights is strong.  Many believe passionately and perhaps wrongly that having several guns in their homes makes them safer.  The NRA is strong because it has a very large and passionate membership. 

As The New York Times reports, in Roseburg, Oregon, the site of last week’s massacre,  “Some said they were planning to buy guns. Others said they would seek concealed-weapons permits. Others, echoing gun advocates’ calls for more weapons on campus, said the college should allow its security guards to carry guns.”

Others argue that having guns in churches, schools and supermarkets comes at a terrible cost, making us more suspicious, fearful and less safe.

“Firearms are America’s Pandora’s Box,” writes Justin King in an article with the headline  ‘The Facts That Neither Side Wants To Admit About Gun Control.’ The box is open and more legislation won’t have a major impact, he argues. “If you want to change society, you have to actually change the whole of society.”

That’s a conversation that would be worth having.  Perhaps it can begin with an honest, compassionate debate about how we treat mental illness and better enforcement of the background checks that we already have.

Photo (above) Jim Wrigley Photography on Flickr Creative Commons license

Why Hillary Clinton May Have To Make Only Simple Change To Turn Things Around.

  
The one really big thing the polls are telling us right now is that the American people want a Presidential candidate who tells it like it is. 

Donald Trump is the prime example of the unplugged guy who says outrageous things and is fun to watch.  Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders are also anti-establishment “outsider” candidates who are doing far better than expected.  

Hillary Clinton is the prime example of someone who’s telling it like it isn’t.  Her campaign is boring, ultra-cautious, and buttoned-up.  She’s facing an enthusiasm gap.

But despite her apparently disastrous poll plunge, Hillary is still in a place where nearly every competitor would like to be.

Her campaign has a ton of money and a strong organization to fight the primary and caucus states next year after Iowa and New Hampshire.

Unlike Sanders, or Trump for that matter, she has strong support among minority voters. 

Above all, she is un-peaking early and still has plenty of time to recover.  At this point in 2007, with 14 months to go before an election, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson were the top two Republicans in the race. Remember them?

To turn things around, Clinton must make just one really big change. Instead of keeping the press and her critics at a distance, she should welcome them in.  Answer their questions until she’s blue in the face. 

The former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State needs to get into the trenches.  That should include an offer to make regular appearances before Republican-led committees in Congress.  She’s a very smart and seasoned operator, who would do nicely in the spotlight offered by Capitol Hill.

Instead of just doing friendly softball TV shows like “The View” or “The Ellen DeGeneres Show“, she ought to go on Fox. Appear with the scrappy Bill O’Reilly.  Do a bunch of talk radio, just like Trump has. 

Fight back, Hillary.  Get your hands dirty.  Take on your critics in unedited, spontaneous settings.  Go beyond the political echo chamber.

Detractors say Clinton is too defensive and doesn’t like the press.  Those aren’t disqualifications for the White House.

You don’t have to be the most likable candidate in the race.  Face it: she never will be. 

But people do respect a fighter. And above all they want someone who explains in clear English exactly why she wants to be President.

She should find her passion and shed her caution. And yes, be herself.
Recent polls say Democratic voters care far less about the email server controversy than journalists or political elites.

The reason why Bernie Sanders is gaining support not just because he’s an outspoken liberal.  Voters may not agree with all his positions, but many see him as authentic, who sticks to his guns.

Hillary Clinton, if you want to win the Democratic Presidential nomination, stick to yours.